Economic Development News & Insight


How to prepare for robots entering the workforce

Laura Fuller / February 17, 2017

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How to prepare for robots entering the workforce

Imagine with me for a moment. You are a taxi cab driver who earns minimum wage, trying to pay off car and mortgage payments, while simultaneously putting money towards your RRSPs and RESPs for your kids. You are trying to pay off the remaining debt from student loans and make ends meet to provide for your family. Now imagine that one day you went to work to discover you are no longer needed at your job.

This is the reality that many predict will be coming sooner than we thought. The risk automation has on jobs has been discussed in previous issues of TINAN, as well as in multiple places on national and online news outlets. Forrester VP and analyst Brian Hopkins says that by 2021, six percent of American jobs will be taken over by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Most of these six percent are said to be taxi and truck drivers, customer service jobs, and people working in logistics. Virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana are integrated into our daily lives, and self-driving cars are already being tested on Canadian roads.

Hopkins is not the only one who predicts AI taking many jobs. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, predicts that robots will take over so many manufacturing and labour jobs that governments will have to set a universal basic income. Similarly, Professor Moshe Vardi of Rice University predicts that robots will eliminate most of the middle-class jobs in 30 years.

Don’t panic – this is not the end of your career. There are ways to prepare society to work with artificial intelligence. Years from now, people will be working in collaboration with robots, as opposed to competing with them for jobs. An article published by Fortune says that AI will allow workers to be able to learn new skills to innovate more.

What can be done?

As supervising, programming, and maintaining these robots will be a necessity, working on technological skills and becoming familiar with big data is a good place to start. Implementing new curricula in schools that teach kids about math, science, arts and humanities in the context of collaborating with automated systems would let the youth of tomorrow be better prepared to enter the workforce.

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